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Jazz Cafe, London 11 June 2007

There can be few rock vocalists who demand such a lot of themselves at 65. Yes, unbelievably the original wild man of rock Roger Chapman is 65, and the only sign of concessions to the passing of time appears to be in his choice of material. For the most part this startling performance in front of a superbly drilled band was an object lesson in stage craft, born of the adrenalin of one of Rock's most vital performers.

Coming on the back of an extensive European tour, this London show was part of a tagged on UK leg to promote his new 'One More Time for Peace' album. But being Chappo it was never as simple as that, as he frequently, segued into something completely different following an introductory couple of verses. Utilising the accompanying vocal talents of Helen Hardy and Steve Simpson, Roger extracted every possibility from his new songs, from a telling phrase here, to a Micky Moody slide guitar run there, all topped by his own imposing physical performance.

Roger Chapman

Photo by Yuki Smythe-Park

In his heyday Roger was always a volatile character lost in his own on stage performance, working himself into a frenzy, taking several numbers right to the edge before magically redressing the balance. The same processes are still at work today, though his on stage aggression is more focussed on wringing every last possibility from a husky voice. At times he seemed frustrated by his inability to reach the vocal heights of old, but quickly channelled his frustrations into getting the best out of his impressive band.

Hell, the guy had just taken on Glasgow and Newcastle back to back, and here he was limbering up to raise hell in London.

But that turned out to be not quite the case. For while he still mixed humorous quips with a few barbed comments - he replied to an audience song request, with a quick rebuff, 'you must be Belgian as I don't have any English people come to my shows anymore' - his music is much more rootsy song writing based nowadays.

Roger Chapman

Photo by Yuki Smythe-Park

As is the way, once you road test new songs some frequently take on a new dimension. 'Sweet Bird' for example stood out like a beacon, with its beautiful lilting rhythm, and perfectly judged vocals, while one of the album's highlights 'All To Soon' was given a delicate reading before Roger veered off into the first of several musical detours. In fact there was almost a parallel set list at play, born of Chappo's 'state of consciousness' eclectic musical connections.

Thus he thought nothing of growling his way through Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots are Made for Walking', while Helen Hardy delivered a more well worn snippet of the Supremes 'You Keep Me Hanging On' as part of the intro to the long time favourite 'Who Pulled The Night Down On Me.'

And while Roger dipped into his past for the likes of the magnificent 'Soldier', the inevitable 'Burlesque' and even name checked Charlie Whitney on the communal sing-along that is 'My Friend the Sun', it was the five numbers from the new album that really impressed.

There may be little common ground between say Roger and the resurrected Paul McCartney save for a year age gap, both still have an intrinsic need to write. And on the evidence of this show, while Roger's stylistic departure may be partly to accommodate his ravished vibrato, the upside is that the swagger has been replaced by some of his best songs in years.

Review by Pete Feenstra

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